A High Court judge has refused to grant Sir Philip Green’s firm an injunction restricting the publication of a report by the accountancy watchdog on a BHS audit.
Earlier this month the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) handed a £10 million fine to PwC for its 2014 audit of BHS, which was sold by the tycoon’s Taveta Group for £1 ahead of its demise in 2016.
The FRC also sanctioned Steve Denison, the audit partner responsible, fined him £500,000 and banned him from performing audit work for 15 years.
The body has not yet published its findings but is now free to do so after Mr Justice Nicklin refused to grant the injunction, which was sought by Sir Philip’s holding company Taveta Investments.
The judge said Taveta had not demonstrated this was an “exceptional case” which required an injunction.
He added: “The injunction is sought to restrain the publication of statements alleged to defame Taveta personnel pending Taveta’s judicial review claim.
“Although I have found that the threatened publication does make criticisms of the Taveta personnel that are capable of being defamatory of them (and seriously so), such a threatened publication is not exceptional.”
The judge said those who Taveta argued would be “adversely affected” by the report’s publication did not include Sir Philip.
Lawyers for Taveta had argued at a hearing last week that, if the injunction was not granted, a judicial review of the FRC’s report sought by Taveta would be “pointless” as the “damage would be done”.
BHS collapsed in the summer of 2016 with a sizeable pension deficit and the loss of 11,000 jobs, triggering a parliamentary inquiry spearheaded by Labour MP Frank Field.
MPs ultimately called for Sir Philip’s knighthood to be rescinded.
Mr Field, who branded Sir Philip the “unacceptable face of capitalism” had been pressing the FRC to publish its findings on the discredited audit and wanted to know what changes have been requested by Taveta.
The MP, who is chair of the work and pensions committee, said: “Mr Justice Nicklin needed much wisdom to make this judgment.
“The High Court has put aside the special pleading of a plaintiff whose financial resources are almost unlimited.
“In doing so, it has struck a judgment that such individuals have a very high test to meet if they are to succeed in gagging a regulator, whose report is of interest to so many citizens.
“We will be writing to the Insolvency Service to ask them to reopen their investigation into BHS’ former directors in light of the FRC’s findings.”